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Flying from the United Kingdom: serious charges

The British government’s intention to again increase taxes to passengers is very harmful to the economic development of the Caribbean countries.


Diony Sanabia Abadia


Why? Because it is a region whose main source of income relies on tourism.

The British Finance Ministry will increase the tax from April this year by 8%, which raises the cost of travel and offers fewer benefits to people in times of global economic crisis.

Authorities, officials and specialists from the Caribbean consider the Air Passenger Duty (APD) to be a real obstacle towards the growth of the so-called smokeless industry in this geographical area, which is extremely vulnerable to the financial problems that are shaking the world.

According to Alec Sanguinetti, the general secretary of the Caribbean Association of Hotels and Tourism, 1.373.600 tourists travelled to the region from the UK in 2007, and in 2010 the number fell to 1.103.400.

Also, trips the Caribbean residents made from the European nation to their home countries decreased by almost 20%, due to this tax..

Figures presented last month at the Caribbean Travel Marketplace, based in the Bahamas, shows that the Caribbean has lost about 270.000 tourists in three years as a result of the same cause.

Other data shows a decline by 16% over the last five years in the number of arrivals from the UK, which still exerts influence in some nations and rule over several Caribbean territories.

At present, the affected region belongs to the C band of four where APD applies, and this level refers to the distance between destinations from 4001 to 6000 miles from London.

With a current charge of £150 ($238) per passenger in the highest class, those who are interested in travelling to the Caribbean will be charged £12 ($19) more from next April.

Those who make the trip now in Economy Class pay £75 ($119), which will cost up to £83 ($130) per ticket when the cost increases.

However, Caribbean governments have criticised this decision, as in their view they are in a competitive disadvantage with other tourists destinations, mainly in the U.S, which are located in lower bands.

For example, they reported that destinations in the U.S. state of Florida and the Keys have a lower rate, even if its distance from London is greater than the space between the British capital and its Caribbean counterparts.

Originally, the APD had two bands, one for European destinations and one for all destinations outside the so-called Old World.

The opinion of the former Minister of Tourism of Jamaica, Edmund Bartlett, is that the imposition of the tax on the basis of the distances between the capitals runs counter to the interests of the Caribbean.

“We are disappointed; we see it as a huge blow” the former minister said, who is calling for parity in the tax system, according to the media.

Several officials believe that the fees charged by the British Government are well above the levels enacted by other countries.

Based on the current figures, the UK has the highest prices worldwide, whilst 22 European nations don’t tax air passengers.

So far, several airlines including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Easyjet and Ryanair, have asked the British Government for a review of the charges.

This is creating a major problem for the tourism and aviation industry, according to people linked to the development of such sectors around the world.

Originally, the APD was proposed for environmental reasons, as compensation by the airlines for emitting greenhouse gases that cause climate change.

However a Treasury source confirmed that currently the APD serves the interests of the British Government to in reducing the deficit and restoring public finances. PL.

(Translated by: Sophie Maling – sophie_maling@hotmail.com)

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